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ON 

DRAWING AND PAINTING 

\ 4 

BY 

HENRY C. WHITE 



WATERFORD, CONNECTICUT 
1944 



















ALL PASSES. ART ALONE 

ENDURING STAYS TO US: 

THE BUST OUT-LASTS THE THRONE,- 
THE COIN, TIBERIUS 












I 


NOTES ON DRAWING AND PAINTING 

Every art has its language and unless the artist, whether 
professional or amateur, masters it he is at a great disadvan¬ 
tage. He never will fully succeed either in expressing his 
feeling to others or enjoy the great pleasure and satisfaction 
himself of the complete realization of his impressions, his 
emotions and his visions. My experience as a teacher of art in 
schools and of people in general who have the urge to draw or 
paint, convinces me that they often regard the graphic arts as 
an exception to the rule stated above. They assume that there 
is some way to avoid the necessary training and that they can 
dispense with it. For example, no one would expect a child or 
an adult to play the piano or the violin without long and ar¬ 
duous study of the technique of these instruments. It is taken 
for granted at the outset that this is indispensable. And 
although our spoken and written language is such a universal 
means of communication that we all have to master its tech¬ 
nique to some extent, we understand that the novelist, the poet 
or professional writer in any field of literature must have 
special training and much practice to succeed. A possible 
explanation of this curious misconception is the fact that , 
while we do not expect a person wholly uneducated in 
music to produce it, the average child, given paper and 
pencil, often renders a crude resemblance to reality in his 
drawing. The drawings on the walls of the Paleolithic caves 
at Altamira and elsewhere in France and Northern Spain 
show that the prehistoric men of twenty thousand or more 
years ago had a strong and instinctive feeling for form and 
drew remarkably well, in a primitive fashion. Their drawings 
of animals incised on the cave walls are surprisingly true and 
realistic. I think more people than we suspect have a latent 
ability to draw quite well in a natural but unscientific manner. 


To go far in any art, however, requires training and discipline, 
and this is as true of painting and sculpture as of the rest. 
The basis of the arts of representation, the rendering of visual 
objects in form and color, is drawing, and without facility in 
this but little value or importance can be achieved. 

It is an interesting study to trace the development of the 
art of drawing down through the ages, from Paleolithic times 
to the present by all races. The great periods of Oriental art 
in China and Japan, the art of the Greeks and Romans, the 
Renaissance in Italy, should be studied well by the art student. 
But as I wish to make these notes as brief and simple as pos¬ 
sible, I will say that for the purpose of learning to draw it 
may be said that the teaching of draftsmanship culminated in 
France in the early nineteenth century. French art was derived 
largely from the classic art of the Greeks and Romans and the 
academic training in drawing and painting in the French 
schools of that period, never has been and probably never 
will be excelled. The foundations of our own art and that 
of other countries are based upon it. This training was highly 
scientific and systematic and is an extremely valuable education 
in itself in developing the mental faculties. It is intellectual 
above all else. Its value also in cultivating the appreciation of 
art itself is inestimable. So I say to you who wish to practice 
any of the graphic arts you must first learn to draw. It is the 
basis of them all. And to begin with I wish to correct a popu¬ 
lar error. It is often thought by the novice that drawing or 
painting is a trick of the hand, a sort of manual magic or dex¬ 
terity. This is true only to a slight and relatively unimportant 
degree. Drawing is a cultivation and sharpening of our vision, 
our ability to see. As soon as the student really sees the object 
he wishes to represent, has a true conception of it in his mind, 
he finds relatively little difficulty in transferring it to paper 


canvas. 


You will remember that in our studies of last summer 
you sometimes told me that you could not draw or paint 
certain objects in distinction from certain others. When I 
asked you to draw a boat from the bow, in a foreshortened 
position, you said you doubted if you could do it. When I set 
you a still life of flowers to paint, you said you were not used 
to painting flowers, and when you came to paint them you 
asked me how you should render the surface of the brass bowl 
that contained them. I tried at the time to dispel this misap¬ 
prehension and I hope I succeeded. But at the risk of unneces¬ 
sary repetition I wish to emphasize again the fact, that, having 
mastered the technique of drawing and painting, you are free to 
represent the whole visible world. One thing is no more diffi¬ 
cult than another. Unless you fully understand this the attitude 
of mind that considers one object as easier or more difficult to 
render than another will be a perpetual stumbling block and re¬ 
tard your progress. If you get the right form or proportions, 
in the right place, of the right strength of light or dark, or val¬ 
ues, and, if painting, the right color, your rendering is bound 
to be true. It cannot escape you. It is as simple as that. You 
may remember that when you were painting the head from 
life I told you not to think about the likeness but to try to 
get a good drawing, correct proportions and values. If you 
did this the likeness would come of itself. When you fully 
grasp this principle it will solve most of your problems. The 
rest is only a matter of practice. It is the mental attitude, not 
manual skill. I mention these things again lest they become 
dim in your memory. They are most important and always 
should be kept clearly in mind. 

The English artist, Harold Speed, in a treatise on drawing 
and painting has this to say on the subject of Vision. "The 
visual blindness of the majority of people is greatly to be 


deplored as nature is ever* offering them on their retina, even 
in the meanest slum, a mass of color and form that is a con¬ 
stant source of pleasure to those who can see it. But so many 
are content to use this wonderful faculty of vision for utili¬ 
tarian purposes only. It is the privilege of the artist to show 
how wonderful and beautiful is all this music of color and 
form, so that people having been moved by it in his work, 
may be encouraged to see the same beauty in the things around 
them. This is the best argument in favor of making art a 
subject of general education; that it should teach people to see. 
Everybody does not need to draw and paint, but if every¬ 
body could get the faculty of appreciating form and color on 
their retina as form and color, what a wealth would always 
be at their disposal for enjoyment! The Japanese habit of 
looking at a landscape upside down between their legs is a 
way of seeing without the deadening influence of touch asso¬ 
ciations. Thus looking, one is surprised into seeing for once 
the color and form of things with the association of touch 
for the moment forgotten, and is puzzled at the beauty. The 
odd thing is that although thus we see things upside down, 
the pictures on our retinas are for once the right way up; for 
ordinarily the visual picture is inverted on the retina, like the 
ground glass at the back of a photographic camera. ...” 

An academic training in drawing and painting does not 
necessarily produce a great artist. It should not be continued 
too long, only long enough to enable the student to express 
himself fluently. What he does with his knowledge is another 
thing entirely. Many Frenchmen and students of other nation¬ 
alities in the Parisian schools painted from the life model for 
ten years or more or until they could render it with absolute 
perfection and the greatest ease. Technique could go no farther. 
Many of these men never did anything else. Their subsequent 


work was only a continuation of their school work, extremely 
clever and facile, but wholly uninspired and distinguished. 
The average student, given any natural aptitude whatever, 
under good instruction, should master drawing sufficiently in 
a year or two at most, sometimes in a few months, for a work¬ 
ing knowledge, to be combined with painting for the second 
half of the time. But no very interesting or valuable result 
is attained without a full measure of this discipline. Better 
a little more than is necessary than not quite enough. It will 
save much time and wasted labor to recognize and acknowl¬ 
edge the necessity for a thorough training in drawing as early 
as possible and to apply oneself patiently to the mastery of 
form, in its two or flat dimensions and the full volume of the 
three dimensions of modeling. My experience of teaching 
has been that men usually learn to draw more easily than 
women, while women often have a better sense of color and 
perhaps a more artistic temperament and greater appreciation. 
When the ability to draw well is combined with a fine sense 
of color we have the ideal condition. 

Lest I seem to over-emphasize the importance of a thor¬ 
ough knowledge of drawing I will quote the following letter 
from Whistler to his friend the French painter, Fantin La 
Tour in the sixties. It was published later in the "Gazette 
des Beaux Arts”. It is one of the most illuminating discourses 
on this subject that I know. It should be posted on the walls of 
every art school. "I have too many things to tell you to write 
them all this morning, for I am in an impossible press of work. 
It is the pain of giving birth. You know what that is. I have 
several pictures in my head and they issue with difficulty. For I 
must tell you that I am grown exacting and "difficile”—very 
different from what I was when I threw everything pell-mell 
on canvas, knowing that instinct and fine color would carry me 


through. Ah! my dear Fantin, what an education I have given 
myself! or, rather, what a fearful want of education I am 
conscious of! With the fine gifts I naturally possess, what a 
painter I should now be, if, vain and satisfied with those 
powers, I hadn’t disregarded everything else] You see, I came 
at an unfortunate moment. Courbet and his influence were 
odious. The regret, the rage, even the hatred I feel for all 
that now would perhaps astonish you, but here is the explana¬ 
tion. It isn’t poor Courbet that I loathe, nor even his works. 
I recognize, as I always did, their qualities. Nor do I lament 
the influence of his painting on mine. There isn’t any; none 
will be found in my canvases. That can’t be otherwise, for I 
am too individual and have always been rich in qualities 
which he hadn’t and which were enough for me. But this 
is why all that was so bad for me. That damned realism made 
such a direct appeal to my vanity as a painter, and, flouting 
all traditions, shouted with the assurance of ignorance, "Vive 
la Nature!” "Nature,” my boy—that was a piece of bad luck 
for me. My friend, our little society was a refractory as you 
like. Oh! why wasn’t I a pupil of Ingres! I don’t say that in 
rapture before his pictures. I don’t care much for them. I 
think a lot of his paintings that we saw together very ques¬ 
tionable in style, not in the least Greek, as people pretend, 
but very viciously French. I feel there is much more to dis¬ 
cover, there are much finer things to do. But I repeat it, why 
wasn’t I his pupil? What a master he would have been. How 
safely he would have led us. Drawing, by Jove! Color— 
color is vice. Certainly it can be and has the right to be one 
of the finest virtues. Grasped with a strong hand, controlled 
by her master, Drawing, Color is a splendid bride with a hus¬ 
band worthy of her—her lover but her master, too—the most 
magnificent mistress in the world, and the result is to be seen 
in all the lovely things produced from this union. But 


coupled with indecision, with a weak, timid, vicious drawing, 
easily satisfied, color becomes a jade making game of her 
mate, you know, and abusing him just as she pleases, taking 
the thing lightly so long as she has a good time, treating her 
unfortunate companion like a duffer who bores her—which 
is just what he does. And look at the result; a chaos of in¬ 
toxication, of trickery, regret, unfinished things. Well, enough 
of this. It explains the immense amount of work I am now 
doing. I have been teaching myself thus for a year and more, 
and I am sure that I shall make up the wasted time. But— 
but—what labor and pain!” 

II. 

In the period to which I have referred, the first half of 
the nineteenth century in France, when draftsmanship in 
drawing and painting was so highly developed, the French 
artist J. A. D. Ingres, (1780-1867), was one of its most dis¬ 
tinguished practitioners. As a master of line drawing he was 
one of the greatest of all time. His drawings of the figure 
and his portraits in lead pencil are masterpieces. He had a 
powerful influence upon the teaching of drawing and painting 
in his time and his tradition was held in reverence in the 
schools of Paris long after his death. It had much to do 
with the instruction given by the men who followed him, 
such artists as Gerome, Laurens, Lefebvre, Carolus Duran, 
and others who taught in the academies or had private schools 
of their own, and who passed on his principles. Henry Adams 
said that a parent gives life and, as parent, gives no more. A 
murderer takes life and his deed stops there. A teacher affects 
eternity—he never can tell where his influence will stop. A 
principle that is based upon fundamental truth is a pervasive 
and indestructible thing. It never is outworn or outdated. 


My insistence upon the importance of good drawing may 
seem overstressed. But I had the good fortune in my youth 
to come under the direct influence of French academic train¬ 
ing. I studied at the Art Students’ League of New York in 
the eighties, in the antique class under George de Forest Brush 
who was a pupil of Gerome and in the life class under Ken¬ 
yon Cox who was a pupil of Gerome and Carolus Duran. 
Both artists were consummate draftsmen and their criticisms 
were severe. They held us to the highest standards. In 
addition, my teacher in painting was Dwight W. Tyron who 
had studied in Paris for five years in the highly specialized 
and very select school of Jacquesson de la Chevreuse who 
was a favorite pupil of Ingres. So I imbibed a triple extract, 
so to speak, of the best French tradition. It was a potent and 
ineradicable distillation that has served me well, both in the 
practice of painting and in teaching. I cannot overestimate 
its value and importance. To bring these rambling remarks 
upon the subject of drawing to a close I will repeat in con¬ 
densed form the method of approach which I gave you last 
summer, to refresh your memory. It is, in substance, the 
method of the old French academic teaching, which I fear is 
sadly lacking in most of our art schools today, judging from 
what I have seen of their product. 


In drawing from the antique, the grasping of the large 
proportions of the cast in its simplest aspect, observing care¬ 
fully the action and construction, and insistence that the draw¬ 
ing shall be the exact size of the cast, verified by careful 
measurements of the model itself. Next, the laying in of 
the large masses of shadow in one simple flat tone, as soon 
as the general proportions are approximated, since the spot¬ 
ting of the masses in light and dark, at once helps the eye to 
see the true proportions and to make corrections. Then by 


a rapid but careful revision of proportions and masses together 
and the indication of the principal values, or difference in the 
strength of lights and darks, the whole drawing is worked 
upon and the relation of its parts established. At the last such 
elaboration of details to be added as will not disturb the unify 
of the whole. The big things first, the little things last. 

To the student who is as yet unconscious of the supreme 
importance of drawing, who is impatient to paint, the severe 
discipline of mastering form seems irksome, a kind of painful 
drudgery, to be endured under protest and got over with or 
by-passed as soon as possible. This attitude is unfortunate 
for it not only delays the ultimate achievement but deprives 
the student of what should be the enjoyment of one of the 
most interesting and fascinating fields of art, drawing for its 
own sake. The competent draftsman is made free of the domain 
of etching, dry point, engraving, lithography, illustrating and 
the arts of design, in fact the whole realm of work in black 
and white. He may, indeed, become a master in this field 
alone and establish a great reputation like that of Muirhead 
Bone, the Scotch etcher, or, in the past, of Daumier. The ink 
painting of the Chinese shows the possibilities of beautiful 
drawing, pure and simple. 

I urge you, therefore, to study and practice drawing, not 
only until you can draw well, but until you enjoy it for its 
own sake, for it has many and delightful possibilities entirely 
apart from the use of color. Keep a sketch book and pencil 
at hand, indoors and out, and practice line drawings, of fig¬ 
ure and landscape, at every opportunity. You will become 
fluent and develop a sort of artistic shorthand that is inval¬ 
uable in making quick notations, reducing a subject to its 
elements, and above all, in the study of composition. And, 


along with it, study the masters of drawing and design, Leon¬ 
ardo, Raphael, Mantegna, Botticelli, Rubens, Rembrandt, 
Holbein, Durer, Ingres; and study also the work of the great 
etchers of these and later times, Whistler, Seymour Haden, 
Muirhead Bone and many others, not to mention the Oriental 
masters of black and white, especially of design, or their word 
for it,—Notan. So much for drawing. 


III. 

I have not as much to say to you on the subject of color, 
though there is plenty to be said about that, too. Drawing is 
scientific, color is poetic and emotional, though it has its 
science. But it is extremely personal and no two people see 
or feel color alike. While almost anyone can learn to draw, 
the sense of color is a natural gift, like the feeling for music 
or poetry. It goes with the imaginative temperament and 
though it may be developed to some extent in those who do 
not possess it, the true colorist is born not made. As I 
have seen from your work that you have a nahiral and 
strong sense of color I think it is unnecessary to go into 
the subject in detail at present, except to call your attention 
to the balance of color in Nature, that it is divided into warm, 
cool and natural color, according to the local colors of an 
object upon which the light falls, warm in the lights, cool in 
the shadows or vice versa. The most difficult thing for the 
student in painting is to learn to see the color in the shadows. 
Bearing these few principles in mind, I think you can be 
trusted to criticize your own work as far as its color is con¬ 
cerned. But the subject of color in the abstract sense, as a most 
important element in creative work, leads me at once to the 
far more involved and inexhaustible subject of taste, so vital 
and indispensable in all art. I cannot emphasize too strongly 



that in your technical study of drawing and painting you also 
study constantly aesthetics in the larger aspect, the cultivation 
of your general knowledge and appreciation. Never before 
were these so much needed or so much neglected. 

Last summer I gave you a copy of the Synopsis of History 
of architecture, painting, sculpture and the derivative arts, 
published by the Freer Gallery in Washington and by the 
Boston Museum of Fine Arts. This is useful in giving you a 
bird’s eye view or general survey of the history and develop¬ 
ment of art from its beginning, and also in directing your 
attention to the art of the past when you visit museums. Spend 
a part of your time on the Egyptians and the Orientals instead 
of concentrating too exclusively on the moderns. There 
are many good books on the subject of art in general 
and upon its technique. I will mention only a few, those 
that I think will help you most and not to confuse you. First 
of all Whistler’s "Ten O’Clock”. There is more concentrated 
wisdom in this short essay than in any other work I can think 
of. It goes to the very roots of the subject and should be 
read frequently by artists ami by students. 

William Morris Hunt’s "Talks on Art”, a series of notes 
compiled by his pupil, Miss Helen M. Knowlton, from his 
criticisms to his pupils, is extremely suggestive and inspiring 
in your study and practice of painting. I think we lent you 
these two books last summer but they will bear re-reading 
many times. They are classics. 

The following are all excellent treatises on art and will 
add much to your theoretic and general knowledge, to your 
culture and to your enjoyment, if not to your technical accom¬ 
plishment. 




These will occupy you for a time if you digest them. We 
have all of these books, with five or six hundred more on the 
subject of art, all of which are always at your disposal. 

"Considerations on Painting” 

"The Higher Life in Art” 

(Five lectures on the Barbizon School) 

By John La Farge 

"The History of American Painting” 

By Samuel Isham and Royal Cortissoz 
"American Artists,” Cortissoz 
"Art and Common Sense,” Cortissoz 
"Talks on Art,” By William Morris Hunt 
Compiled by Helen M. Knowlton 
Whistler’s "Ten O’clock.” 

My remembrance of our lessons together of last summer 
has been most happy and I hope your interest will continue 
and that you may have opportunity again to go on with your 
work. I should like to think that, however far you may go, 
the suggestions I have made may prove helpful in that pleas¬ 
ant pursuit, the quest for beauty. 

Beauty has many definitions. For one, I like that of Som¬ 
erset Maugham, the English novelist. He says: 

"Why should you think Beauty which is the most pre¬ 
cious thing in the world, lies like a stone on the beach 
for the careless passerby to pick up idly? Beauty is 
something wonderful and strange that the artist fash¬ 
ions out of the chaos of the world in the tnrmpnr 0 f 
his soul. 

And when he has made it, it is not given to all to 
know it. To recognize it you must repeat the adven¬ 
ture of the artist. It is a melody that he sings to you 
and to hear it again in your own heart you want knowl¬ 
edge and sensitiveness and imagination.”